- Highland’s Cory Moncol upends Cloverleaf’s Garrison Flora for a short gain during the first quarter. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)
GRANGER TWP. — This time, there was no upset. Not by a long shot.
The Highland football team got touchdowns from five different players on its first five possessions Friday en route to a 49-7 Suburban League thumping of Medina County rival Cloverleaf.
The Hornets (10-0, 7-0) wrapped up the fourth undefeated regular season in school history (8-0 in 1955, 9-0 in ’69, 10-0 in 2001), won their fourth SL championship (1979, 2001, ’08) and guaranteed themselves a home game in the first round of the Division II, Region 4 playoffs.
“It feels great,” offensive lineman Myles Houska said. “We set our goals early in the summer and we were able to come out and achieve them.
“But we said from the beginning of the year that if we came together as a team, we’re a tough out (in the playoffs). We’ve earned respect. We’ll be ready for whoever we get next Friday.”
Beyond the perfect season, SL title and playoff berth, Highland also managed to avoid losing to Cloverleaf (2-8, 0-7). The Colts had upset the Hornets in six of their last eight meetings, including a 41-35 thriller two years ago when Robby Buckwald hauled in a Hail Marry pass on the last play of regulation for a 41-35 victory.
“The (current) seniors lived through the Buckwald catch,” Houska said. “That can scar you. To see those seniors walk out crying on senior night (in 2011), we wanted to come in with the right mindset and make sure that didn’t happen.”
Highland was up 35-0 with 10:34 to go in the second period after 5-foot-8, 170-pound senior running back Alex Harris (14 carries, 201 yards) reversed field to complete a 40-yard touchdown run.
“We treat every game exactly the same no matter who the opponent is,” said Harris, who added a 20-yard TD midway through the third period. “This was just like every other team.”
The Hornets put their second-string defense in to start the second period — some starters eventually came back in for a bit — but nothing changed.
At halftime, Highland had 329 yards total offense and 18 first downs. Cloverleaf had 35 yards total offense and had moved the chains three times.
“That’s a good football team,” Colts coach Bob Lake said. “They’re going to go far in the playoffs. I wish Coach (Tom) Lombardo and them the best.”
Highland quarterback Bruce Kinsey, who hit his first eight passes and 12 of his first 13, finished the night 16-for-24 for 175 yards and two touchdowns. He had 151 yards passing and a 5-yard rushing TD at intermission.
Harris had eight carries for 130 yards at halftime, while Coltin Kinsey had all eight of his catches for 82 yards and Cory Moncol (7 catches, 85 yards) had five grabs for 69 yards.
Not to be outdone, the Highland defense got first-half interceptions from Coltin Kinsey and Jonny Zaz while limiting Cloverleaf to 28 yards passing and 7 yards rushing over the first two quarters.
“We weren’t going to ease up,” linebacker Grant Wallace said. “I was happy with it. I was impressed. We came out and did what we had to do.”
Highland went 61 yards in eight plays on its first possession, with Bruce Kinsey hitting brother Coltin for a 10-yard TD. Luke Allen, who now owns the county season record with 54 extra points, hit the first of his seven PATs.
The second TD drive consisted of three Bruce Kinsey passes to Moncol for 54 yards, the last from 22 yards out.
The third drive was capped by a 1-yard plunge by 6-foot-1, 245-pound sophomore Tyler Frederick, who wears No. 50 but switched from guard to running back with Highland near the goal line.
After a Zaz pick, the Hornets needed just three plays to go 21 yards on their fourth possession, with Bruce Kinsey scoring from 5 yards with 1.3 seconds left in the first period.
The fifth drive also was three plays, with Harris capping the 54-yard march with his 40-yard TD run.
Harris scored again in the third period and backup quarterback Blake Phelps — third-stringer Tyler Zelinski also saw action — capped Highland’s scoring with a 38-yard scamper late in the quarter.
“We’re feeling good,” Harris said. “Whoever our opponent is in the playoffs, we’ll be prepared and confident.”
Cloverleaf avoided the shutout when quarterback Garrison Flora (15-for-31, 182 yards, 3 INTs) hit Austin Smith for a 28-yard touchdown with 3:44 left in the game.
Smith wound up with six catches for 83 yards and running back Devin Cunningham had seven receptions for 90, but most of their yardage came in the final quarter.
The Colts wound up with 244 yards total offense. Highland, despite playing second- and third-stringers for the last 18 minutes, had 523.
“It was a tough year,” Lake said. “It’s a good league. The task was large for us, but our kids battled.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.
Highland 49, Cloverleaf 7
CLOVERLEAF 0 0 0 7 — 7
HIGHLAND 28 7 14 0 — 49
H — Coltin Kinsey 10 pass from Bruce Kinsey (Luke Allen kick), 9:35.
H — Cory Moncol 22 pass from B. Kinsey (Allen kick), 6:52.
H — Tyler Frederick 1 run (Allen kick), 1:07.
H — B. Kinsey 5 run (Allen kick), 0:01.3.
H — Alex Harris 40 run (Allen kick), 10:34.
H — Harris 20 run (Allen kick), 6:02.
H — Blake Phelps 38 run (Allen kick), 1:24.
C — Austin Smith 28 pass from Garrison Flora (Kyle Sasinka kick), 3:44.